New Castle News

May 30, 2013

No tax hike expected for New Castle schools

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle school district does not plan to raise taxes next year.

The $41 million budget, introduced Tuesday night, is about $1 million higher than this year’s. But the tax millage remains at 17.27 in the proposed spending plan. At that level, the average property owner pays about $863 a year in taxes, based on a home with an assessed value of $50,000.

The $41,265,352 budget is available for public review, with final action scheduled for June 27.

The school board had a series of public budget workshops during the past couple of months to consider proposed cuts. District business manager Joe Ambrosini presented a list of items at those meetings the board could consider for cutting. The board finalized last week what items could be cut and which would remain in the budget.

The pre-kindergarten program is one item that will remain.

During early talks in April, the budget showed a potential $1.2 million shortfall in expenses over revenues for next year.

However, as a result of cuts agreed to by the board — with recommendations from acting superintendent Stanley Magusiak — that shortfall has been reduced to about $100,000, Ambrosini explained.

The district has until the June 27 meeting to make more cuts, he said. If it does not find ways to close the $100,000 gap, that amount would have to be made up from the district’s fund balance, which next school year will total $11.5 million.

Ambrosini also detailed these highlights of the proposed spending plan:

•A $270,000 increase in state subsidy, plus a $342,157 allocation in Accountability Block Grant funding. The basic education subsidy is about 70 percent of the district’s revenue.

•An $800,000 Fit for Life grant that will span three years. That money will save the district from funding physical education supplies, representing a savings of $10,000 to $15,000 per year.

•Salaries paid to employees will increase by about 3.4 percent or $700,000, including $120,000 in personal care assistant wages.

•The district’s total obligation to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System will be about $450,000, an increase of about 37 percent from this year’s contribution.

•Sequestration — mandatory federal spending cuts — will impact the budget by about $50,000.

•The district will save $500,000 through attrition, by not filling two elementary and two secondary teacher positions and one full-time custodial position being vacated because of retirements.

•A general moratorium on textbook purchases, except for $40,000 budgeted for 11th-grade history and intermediate level language arts books.

•The anticipated mid-year move of kindergarten students from St. Joseph’s School when the Lockley building is finished will save in rent and costs the district pays St. Joseph’s to house the program. Current monthly operating expenses average $2,000 to $4,000, and rent is $2,683 a month.

•Health care costs should remain stable next year.

•The expenses include $140,000 for a security contract with New Castle police for officers in all district buildings and an armed guard for the junior/senior high school.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)